St. Louis Tunes Take You Around Town


BB’s Jazz, Blues and Soups, located at 700 S Broadway between Soulard and downtown, hosted the blues portion of the St. Louis Sound Project’s inaugural festival Thursday, March 28. St. Louis Sound, which began on March 23 and ended March 30, featured five nights of local artists from various genres performing at five different venues throughout town.

Although St. Louis is nationally famous for its robust blues and jazz history, producing giants like Chuck Berry and Miles Davis, the city is less well known for some of its prominent artists in other genres, such as Ike & Tina Turner or Nelly. The festival, produced by Reedy Press, celebrated the release of the “St. Louis Sound: An Illustrated Timeline” book by Steve Pick and Amanda E. Doyle, which can be ordered from the festival’s website. The book and its festival aim to honor St. Louis’ diverse musical heritage and promote its current local performers.

The city’s rich blues history, which came about due to its connection to the Mississippi River and large African-American community, was well displayed Thursday night at BB’s. Rich McDonough and the Rhythm Renegades opened things up with a set of relaxed tunes, some including a zydeco washboard. Marquise Knox performed next with a series of more easy going songs that passionately communicated the young bluesman’s soulful style. Roland Johnson and Soul Endeavor then played a number of fun covers of classic blues-influenced soul and pop classics. The evening also featured a special guest, former Ikette Robbie Montgomery.

BB’s made an ideal place for the blues night of the St. Louis Sound Project. The restaurant and live music venue won the Riverfront Times’ Best Blues Club award in 2016 and has won it 16 additional times since 1997. Like many establishments in St. Louis’ downtown, BB’s has a colorful history. Since the building was first constructed in the mid 1800s, it has operated as a boarding house, hotel, bar, diner and “a House of Ill Repute with 37 rooms between its 2nd and 3rd floors,” according to their website.

The atmosphere was warm and congenial, even as more guests came and packed the ground floor to the brim later on during the night. While service was a bit slow, the mix of regulars and those coming for the festival created a lively and almost neighborly scene, with one birthday party sharing cupcakes with the entire bar.

Doyle, co-author of “St. Louis Sound,” told The University News that her and fellow co-author Pick are very interested in holding the festival again next year, even though it was originally intended simply to promote the book’s release. While exact ticket-sale numbers are not yet available for the events, Doyle commented that attendance “definitely exceeded expectations” and that the various concerts have been immensely fun. With Loufest, the city’s only major annual music festival, experiencing financial trouble, hopefully St. Louis Sound returns next year.


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